Minutes into Linkin Park's performance at Chula Vista's Cricket Wireless Amphitheatre on Monday night, singer Chester Bennington was slathered in sweat. As he let out his famous bloodcurdling screams, his face contorted into a raging grimace.
But Bennington wasn't afraid to show his soft side – even in front of a packed crowd at the nearly 20,000-capacity outdoor venue. The show was the last stop on the Honda Civic Tour, and at one point during the rap-rock band's blistering 90-minute set, he stopped to reminisce about the time they've spent with tour mates Incubus and Mutemath.
"I actually fucking cracked a little tear – a little tear right here," he said, pointing to his eye. "I'm not kidding. Because I've had so much fucking fun on this tour, and all the bands are really fucking nice!"
For the most part, though, the band offered up its usual bombast. After walking onstage to the lordly Game of Thrones theme song, the band – Bennington, rapper and multi-instrumentalist Mike Shinoda, guitarist Brad Delson, bassist Dave "Phoenix" Farrell, DJ-programmer Joe Hahn and drummer Rob Bourdon – launched into "With You" from their debut album, 2000's Hybrid Theory. Stalking across the stage, Shinoda and Bennington traded verses over Delson's deep, crunchy nü-metal riffs.
The band went on to explore its five-album discography, seesawing between early hits ("In the End," "Numb"), later anthems ("The Catalyst," "What I've Done") and selections from its new album, Living Things, which debuted at Number One on the Billboard Top 200.
They didn't announce any new plans between songs, but they'll play shows in Mexico this week and have international dates lined up through early next year. They've also partnered up with their production manager, Jim Digby, to advocate for better safety regulations at outdoor concert venues, the New York Times reported Sunday.
While Linkin Park explored new sonic territory on their previous two albums, 2007's Minutes to Midnight and 2010's A Thousand Suns, their latest effort has a little bit of all their different sounds. Onstage, an extra-brutal take on "Victimized" found them moving between crushing riffs and moody electronics. Later, lead Living Things single "Burn It Down" had a bit of a club vibe, with Shinoda's tremulous synth line and Bourdon's purposeful beat.
The band ramped up the theatrics for "Burn It Down": columns of fire periodically shot up behind them, and sparks came raining down as a finale. Even in their softer moments, though, they went all-out.
About halfway through the show, after Bennington confessed about his tear, they plunged into a medley of their songs "Leave Out All the Rest," "Shadow of the Day" and "Iridescent." Starting as a bittersweet keyboard-and-voice duet between Bennington and Shinoda, it gradually built into a big, swooning, U2-style climax. As the intensity grew, people in the audience belted out the words and held camera phones aloft. One of the rowdier elements – a tall bald man with a loud voice and no shirt – fell silent.
Before they launched into the medley, Bennington said the Honda Civic Tour was the "most successful" North American tour Linkin Park's ever been a part of (grossing $1.8 million in L.A. alone). He also pointed out that they've never toured before with Incubus, even though they live near each other in Los Angeles County.
In the end, though, his vicious, prolonged screams were what brought the show to a close. He let out several of them for the Living Things cut "Lost in the Echo" – the first of three encores – and finished Hybrid Theory hit "One Step Closer" with a brutally long roar of "Shut up when I'm talking to you!"